Bellevue, along with the rural areas and other cities in Jackson County are looking at using Dittmer Recycling of Dubuque to drop off recycling in the future.  

This, after the recent announcement that Imagine the Possibilities, Inc., of Maquoketa will be getting out of the recycling business after several years in the red. It will end those services on June 30. The decision throws into question the future of recycling streams throughout the county.

Recycling is popular for many Bellevue residents. A percentage of Bellevue’s quarterly landfill assessment fee (paid to the Waste Authority of Jackson County) goes to Imagine the Possibilities for the county’s recycling program.  This fee is then passed onto local residents in their monthly garbage utility bill.

The county also pays Imagine to haul rural recycling bins in Otter Creek, Iron Hill, Preston and Bellevue to Maquoketa for processing.

Scott Dittmer of Dittmer Recycling recently made a sales pitch to Jackson County and some city officials including Bellevue City Administrator/Clerk Abbey Skrivseth and Bellevue Mayor Roger Michels.

Dittmer owns one of the only recycling processors in eastern Iowa. Scott County also has a large recycling center.

“We have an option, and you could haul it tomorrow if you want to,” Dittmer said.

“At this time, the Council is discussing Bellevue’s options and I have been in contact with Dittmer. In the near future, the Council plans to have a work session onsite at Dittmer to tour the facility. Bellevue and Preston are unique in the Jackson County as we are the only two cities that pickup and haul our own garbage and recycling. Other cities in the county have one to 12 private haulers come into their town on a weekly basis to take care of this service” said Skrivseth.

Dittmer does not like to recycle glass. Because of the amount of transportation and processing along with the safety of handling and sorting glass and broken glass, it doesn’t make environmental sense to recycle glass, he said. Haulers that choose to collect and then drop off glass to Dittmer are charged an additional fee. Therefore, if Bellevue were to partner with Dittmer, then the City would no longer accept glass from citizens.

One benefit for Dittmer taking the City’s recycling is that residents will no longer have to separate their recycling out.  Dittmer has a one stream collection service and then special equipment sorts their recycling out.

“No longer requiring our citizens to sort their recycling out will be a big benefit to citizens and the city. We always get asked the question why recyclables currently have to be sorted. Most people do not realize the sorting requirement was set by Imagine the Possibilities and not the City. We hope more people will start to recycle with this anticipated change. More recycling will mean less garbage sent to the landfill,” Skrivseth said.

The Waste Authority of Jackson County is unlikely to start a new recycling processing center. The economies of scale and poor recycling markets make it unrealistic to process recycling in Jackson County, according to Frank Frieberg, Waste Authority director.

In the past few years, recycling markets have tanked, so that many communities have to pay to recycle rather than getting money for the recyclable products. That will likely be the case for any future recycling streams developed in the county.

Imagine was losing about $180,000 annually when they quit, despite the Waste Authority subsidy and hauling the county’s rural bins.

The Waste Authority assesses about $16 per capita to the towns and county for the transfer station, landfill monitoring, household hazardous waste, recycling and more. Without a subsidy going to Imagine the Possibilities, the per-capita assessment is likely to go down to $13 per person.

But this difference will then be allocated to the expense associated with taking recycling to a new location, such as Dittmer.

Skrivseth will be updating the Bellevue City Council on the recycling issue at the February 24 council meeting, as the elected leaders will make the ultimate decision on what to do.